How to care for silk and other delicate fibers

I grew up listening to my mom singing the virtues of silk. Silk was the king (or queen?) of fabrics: it was luxurious, beautiful, felt like a dream, and had the benefit shared by all natural fabrics: breathable. Silk was also expensive and usually came with the dreaded “Dry Clean” instructions. I tried hand washing a couple of times and ultimately decided it was not sustainable after leaving some of my silk pieces in the laundry hamper for months (gross, I know). So I decided that silk was probably not for me and settled for the cheaper and easier polyester alternatives that I could toss into the washer and dryer and not have to think twice about (or procrastinate on).

Then I turned 30 and had an epiphany that mom was right all along: natural fabrics like cotton and silk are better than synthetics. It’s true what they say about getting older: you start to care more about quality and comfort and settling (in clothes and everything else) for the sake of ease (or laziness) becomes less and less appealing. So I started googling like every resourceful and curious Millennial and learned to take care of the silk (and other delicate fabric) at home and sans hand washing:

  • Delicate cycle is your friend: most silk/wool/cashmere items can in fact be machine washed on delicate cycle. That usually means no crazy spinning, shorter cycle, and cool or cold water.
  • Mild detergent: I have been using the Forever New detergent and it has been working well for my wool, cashmere, and silk pieces. I like that it’s affordable and works for hand wash, machine wash, and HE washers. The Laundress is another popular brand that also carries specialized detergents for delicate fabrics. It’s worth a try if you like their signature fragrance and are willing to splurge a bit.
  • Skip the dryer: Heat can shrink and damage the more delicate fibers.
  • Properly air-dry: Like its other natural fabric cousin, linen, silk is notorious for wrinkling. Start by hanging smaller and lighter pieces (e.g. blouses, slips, tanks) and laying larger pieces (e.g. dress) flat to dry. If the piece already shows signs of wrinkling or crumbled edges, straighten them by gentling pulling on the fabric with your hands. Dying your clothes properly will significantly reduce the need for additional iron and steam.

Do you also wear silk, cashmere, or wool? How do you care for your delicate clothes? If you have tips or questions, please share in the comment section below.

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